Foot traffic expected to increase significantly in already limited space
In mid-winter when there is a load of work and a lack of sunlight, students can always use a little vitamin boost. And come January, they’ll have the opportunity to get this from smoothies when a new location of Booster Juice is slated to come to the McMaster University Student Centre.
After the closing of Scoops, a smoothie and ice cream vendor that occupied a small kiosk next to Tim Hortons, McMaster Hospitality Services (MHS) explored different options for new businesses for the space. The deal between MHS and Booster Juice was announced in December of last year.
Lori Diamond, Director of MUSC, noted that students are happy with the deal.
“Feedback from students … was overwhelmingly positive when our proposal came forward,” she said.
Despite the anticipation from students and administrators, there has been no noticeable progress on a storefront in the student centre. And at this point, the construction details are still unclear.
“Nothing is confirmed,” explained Albert Ng, Director of MHS. The University held a meeting with the contractor and construction project team on Nov. 19 in order to work out these details, but Ng emphasized the fact that no strict timeline had been set.
“Three groups are trying to establish what would be a conservable and doable schedule,” he said, noting that the coordination between these groups was not always easy. MHS has some control over the construction, as the electrical work is run through McMaster, but the equipment for the store comes from Booster Juice, and the contractor is from an external company.
“From my understanding, most of the kiosk itself is constructed off-site, then put in place and hooked up with electrical, plumbing and equipment,” Diamond explained.
MUSC administration said that the proposal suggested construction would start the week of Nov. 26, with the opening scheduled for Jan. 2. And despite the lack of confirmation for the plans, Ng said, “we’re still hopeful that we can get it done for the New Year.”
The kiosk will occupy the same place as the previous smoothie bar, though it “will have a larger footprint.” The choice of location has raised some concerns about traffic flow and available space in the student centre, which is already often overcrowded. And MUSC, which replaced Hamilton Hall as the student centre when it opened in 2002, was built at a time when the student population was approximately 14,000 full-time students.
Diamond noted, “we did … consider [the impact on space], as did Hospitality Services in bringing forward the proposal.”
She said that the addition of the kiosk would not require a removal of seating, but that the existing food court area will be reconfigured to accommodate it.
MUSC added 48 seats to the area last year in order to accommodate the “rising demand,” but during the day the space is almost always full.
And the new storefront could pose more of a problem than rearranged seating; like the Tim Horton’s, Booster Juice will have to have a lineup for its customers.
Diamond claimed that “it will be configured to corral the line-up away from the main traffic corridor.”
But it remains to be seen whether the convenience of campus smoothies will come at the cost of a busier student centre.
Before the plan for a campus location, the nearest Booster Juice was a few minutes from campus, located at Main Street and Thorndale. It has since been closed.
Booster Juice was unavailable for comment on whether or not this is related to McMaster’s new store.
Assistant News Editor
Ever notice how, when you walk through the Student Centre (MUSC), something doesn’t feel quite right? No, it’s not the noxious, lingering smell of cheese pizza at every step. Nor is it the zoo of students bustling through its doors at any hour of the day.
Instead, it is much, much worse: there are cobwebs where there should be smoothies.
In September, the popular smoothie, ice cream and Jamaican patties vendor located beside Tim Horton’s in MUSC closed its doors. Under a sub-lease with McMaster Hospitality Services, the kiosk chose to terminate its agreement with McMaster last summer.
With students unaware, saddened and smoothie-less, the following months saw discussions in the McMaster community, specifically the McMaster Hospitality Services (MHS), and a variety of would-be franchise owners. Many showed interest, and numerous deals were offered, but among the lot, a smoothie magnate came out on top: Booster Juice.
First mentioned publically by MSU president Matthew Dillion-Leitch, an approved agreement between MHS and the Booster Juice franchise was reached in December of 2011.
Glenn Tucker, Director of International and Non-Traditional Development at Booster Juice, said that the chain had “long coveted such a store at McMaster.”
Perhaps due to Booster Juice’s commitment to providing healthy options, or maybe because of the exhilaration that comes with change, the student-run website, Macinsiders, was barraged with an array of sneers, cheers and jeers regarding the approval.
On the site’s discussion forum, the post obtained near to 4500 views and received 77 replies. Among the many – some of which were emphatic, others shadowed more so in cynicism – a common complaint seemed to underline the discussion: the price of smoothies. To a student operating on a three-penny and bellybutton lint monthly allowance, this grievance may certainly hold water. But like many of the vendors in MUSC, such as Pizza Pizza, who have offered concessions to better fit the student lifestyle, Booster Juice may too offer a price reduction – although this has neither been confirmed nor denied by either the MHS or Booster Juice itself.
Despite the excitement and consequent questions that the approval has caused, a binding agreement has yet to be signed between MHS and Booster Juice. This isn’t necessarily an uncommon practice. In most cases, the MHS buys the franchise license and then works out the details regarding the storefront itself.
In this case, however, since no signed agreement has been reached. Booster Juice has delayed all documents and potential design options to McMaster University, although some preliminary documentation was sent on Jan. 10.
As explained in the sent documents, the Booster Juice franchise will be in the same location as the smoothie bar in MUSC but “with a slightly larger footprint,” said Lori Diamond, Director of the MUSC. Considering that this is a clustered location that is nested nearby an already overwhelmingly packed Tim Horton’s and La Piazza, the line-ups for the franchise will extend into a corridor that will be created between the Booster Juice and Tim Horton kiosks. To do this, the construction is planned to begin in early February and extend to March if need be. Ideally, the Booster Juice kiosk is to be completed after Reading Week.
Diamond reminded, however, that details such as the size of operation, construction dates, and menu offerings are not concrete without a signed agreement. Tucker mirrored this sentiment: “Until a signed agreement is in place, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on specifics.”
Considering the numerous details that need to be addressed, there is still much that must be done before Booster Juice comes to McMaster. Questions need to be answered, deals need to be made, agreements need to be signed and construction needs to begin. In other words, the operation has yet to put the “smooth” in “smoothie”.